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Seattle police vow tougher handling of protest vandalism

Following a destructive march earlier this week, Police Chief Adrian Diaz announced a new policy focused on prosecuting protesters who damage property.

SEATTLE — Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said the city is getting tougher on people who commit vandalism during protests. 

Diaz announced the new policy just hours before a protest was planned to begin Saturday, Jan. 23 at Occidental Square. The policy was coordinated with Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.

Over the past year, police have made about 600 arrests during protests. In many cases misdemeanors have not been prosecuted. But Diaz says that's changing and those suspects will have their day in court — especially those who have been arrested repeatedly for vandalism. 

On Jan. 20, a group of protesters smashed windows and damaged other property at Pike Place Mark. The famous original Starbucks at Pike Place Market was hit, with storefront windows bashed. 

Seattle police tweeted photos of the damage and said multiple sites were vandalized, including the William Kenzo Nakamura Courthouse at 6th Avenue and Spring Street.

Seattle police made at least three arrests connected to the protest on Jan. 20 -- two for property damage and another for assault.

Diaz said the new policy is focused on the protesters who are there "just trying to be destructive." He said following the protest on Jan. 20, it was clear there are people out there just to be destructive. 

Not only have they caused damage, Diaz said disruptive groups also tie up the department's resources and pull officers away from important police work.

A prepared statement from the City Attorney's Office said its policy "has been consistent." 

"[City Attorney] Pete Holmes has no interest in charging peaceful protesters, but for those arrested for misdemeanor-level violence or property damage (<$750), our prosecutors review each case individually to assess the available evidence, the context of the arrest, and whether a jury of Seattleites would find the person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. With thousands of cancelled court hearings yet to be rescheduled due to COVID-19, there are a considerable number of cases in queue, and our office will prioritize crimes against people first.

"In response to COVID-19, Seattle Municipal Court is only holding arraignment hearings for those held in jail custody, so any people who are arrested and released from jail before our prosecutors consider their case at the next court intake hearing will have their cases considered after the court more fully reopens at a later date."

RELATED: 'This is sad': Clean-up at Pike Place Market after destructive protests and arrests in Seattle

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